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All countries removed from UK red list as cruises cancelled - what it means for you

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Red list countries have all been axed today in an exciting boost for the travel industry and those with holiday plans to Africa this winter.

Holidays to an array of African nations are back on the cards today.

Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola and Zambia were previously all the no-go list but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed yesterday these would be removed.

As of early, this morning there are now no countries on the UK red list, but for many people, holidays have already been too disrupted to be salvageable this winter.

Shapps tweeted Tuesday afternoon: "From 4am on Weds 15 Dec, ALL 11 countries will be removed from England's travel red list."

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He added: "All current TESTING measures remain in place & will be reviewed in the first week of January. As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health."

While the removal of countries from the red list is undeniably a positive thing for holidays, not everyone within the industry is over the moon.

Travel expert Simon Calder posted on Twitter today: "First reaction from Africa guide Paul Goldstein, 'I sincerely hope the government is not expecting any thanks for this. Singlehandedly they have destroyed the Christmas/New Year market for much of Africa as well as butchering confidence in the UK travel industry.'"

Mark Tanzer Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association also commented on the news: “The removal of countries from the red list is a sensible step. However, the Government has always been clear that once the Omicron variant is widespread across the UK there would be little rationale for retaining any restrictions on international travel, so the Government must explain why temporary testing requirements have been retained until the first week of January."

He went on: “We also need the Government to focus on providing the stability that is essential to rebuild consumer confidence in the longer-term. This must include a robust plan to deal with future variants, developed with public health experts and the industry.

"As part of this there should be transition arrangements for the red list – which would enable people overseas when decisions are taken to place a country on the red list to complete self-isolation at home, along with additional testing measures, to avoid costly quarantine - as well as moving away from pre-departure testing, which is the single greatest barrier to getting people travelling again."

For those planning to book holidays, Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, recommended: "If you are booking a trip in the coming months, you can protect yourself amid Covid-related disruption by choosing a package holiday provider with flexible booking policies.”

What are the current Covid testing rules?

All travellers entering the UK must present evidence of a negative Covid result before their departure.

"Anyone wishing to travel to the UK from countries and territories not on the red list must show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test, taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and above," stated the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

"Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result."

Holidays: Before you return to England you must book and pay for a day two COVID-19 test if fully jabbed. Credit: Shutterstock

Anyone returning to England also needs to take a day two PCR test regardless of their vaccination status.

The tests can be taken on or before day two or even at the airport on arrival and you'll need to quarantine until you receive the result.

If the PCR is negative and you are fully vaccinated you can leave isolation. If the test is positive you must isolate for 10 days.

Unvaccinated travellers must take a COVID-19 test in the three days before they travel to England. They will also need to book and pay for day two and day eight COVID-19 PCR tests – to be taken after arrival in England.

Norwegian Jade sets off to sea. Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line

What do the new rules mean for cruises?

Earlier this month Norwegian Cruise Line (NC) cancelled its South African cruises.

Norwegian Jade sailings scheduled to depart from or disembark in South Africa until late January have been scrapped.

An NCL spokesperson told World of Cruising at the time of the cancellations: “We continue to closely monitor the evolving global public health environment and are ready to adapt as needed.

"Given the recent concerns surrounding the Omicron variant, we have made the decision to cancel the five voyages on Norwegian Jade scheduled to depart from or disembark in South Africa beginning December 3, 2021, through and including January 26, 2022. All affected guests and travel partners will be contacted directly...We will share additional information as appropriate."

Today an NCL spokesperson confirmed there were no new changes since the red list announcement was changed.

Azamara has also cancelled cruises to South Africa. A spokesperson told World of Cruising: "In light of the current travel restrictions to South Africa, we have suspended our upcoming Azamara Pursuit voyages in the region from 3 January 2022 – 4 March 2022.

"While this is disappointing for all of us, please know that the health, safety and well-being of our guests, crew and local communities we visit are our top priority.

"Guests who were booked on the sailings will be given up to three options: 125 percent Future Cruise Credit (FCC), Lift and Shift to a similar sailing through 2023 or 100 percent refund, depending on the type of cruise vacation purchased. Azamara Pursuit will begin sailing again for the Europe season in March 2022 from Lisbon."

Not all cruise lines have been hit, however. For instance, AmaWaterways has not been impacted by red list alterations as its Africa season has already finished for the winter.

Speaking for the wider cruising industry, a Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) spokesperson told World of Cruising: "We welcome this first step to simplify travel regulations, and look forward to continuing to work alongside and actively engage with the relevant authorities."

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